Sacred Sites & Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, Japan

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From the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range World Heritage Inscription:

Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, 3 sacred websites—Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan—connected through pilgrimage routes to the historical capital towns of Nara and Kyoto, replicate the fusion of Shinto, rooted in the historical custom of nature worship in Japan, and Buddhism, which was once presented from China and the Korean Peninsula. The websites (506.Four ha) and their surrounding woodland panorama replicate a chronic and extremely well-documented custom of sacred mountains over 1,200 years. The space, with its abundance of streams, rivers, and waterfalls, continues to be a part of the dwelling tradition of Japan and is way visited for ritual functions and climbing, with as much as 15 million guests every year. Each of the 3 websites comprises shrines, a few of which have been based as early as the ninth century.


A Goma Fire Ceremony from the Kii Mountains.

The Kii Mountain Range occupies a wild and far flung Peninsula south of Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya. It’s house to a few of the maximum vital sacred websites in Japan, maximum of which can be hooked up through a community of pilgrimage trails referred to as the Kumano Kodo. Three of those websites in combination shape one in all Japan’s 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Mount Yoshino’s temples are distinguished in historical Japanese poetry and it’s one in all Japan’s most famed cherry blossom viewing spots. Mount Omine may be a pilgrimage vacation spot and residential to the headquarters of the Shugendo sect of Japanese Buddhism.

The Kumano Sanzan are 3 vital temples that oversee greater than 3000 temples throughout Japan. One of them, Kumano Nachi Taisha, even overlooks Japan’s easiest waterfall.

Koyasan is the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism. It’s house to Okunoin Cemetery, possibly the maximum sacred position for Buddhists in Japan. Today, it’s a well-liked position for guests to stick in a shukubo (temple accommodation) and upward push early to watch the sacred goma fireplace rite carried out through clergymen.

When I explored the area, I did a Koyasan temple keep, walked parts of the Kumono Kodo, bathed in historical Yunomine onsen, and visited the 3 Kumano Sanzan. These studies had been a few of the easiest highlights of all my travels in Japan.


The origins of the area’s sacred Shinto websites date again to pre-Buddhist occasions, however later noticed the incorporation of Buddhist ideals. Kukai (Kobo Daishi) one in all the maximum vital figures in Japanese Buddhism, settled in Koyasan in 819 and based Shingon Buddhism.

Kukai is interred in Okunoin Cemetery, the place it’s believed he’s nonetheless meditating and looking forward to the coming of Miroku (Maitreya), the Future Buddha. This is why such a lot of Japanese aspire to be buried at Koyasan, and it has grown into Japan’s greatest cemetery.

Over the centuries, emperors and pilgrims have walked the trails connecting the area’s sacred websites, ritually bathing in scorching springs to purify themselves. Tsuboyu Onsen, a tiny two-person scorching spring in Yunomine, is the handiest UNESCO-listed scorching spring in the global.

Things to Do in the Kii Mountain Range

Mount Yoshino and Omine

Cherry Blossoms of Yoshino
Cherry Blossoms of Yoshino

Sometimes described as the easiest position in Japan to look cherry blossoms, most of the people consult with Mount Yoshino when the blossoms bloom (typically round early April). However, the mountain’s many temples and climbing trails make it nice to consult with at any time of yr, and that is the place to begin for the hike to the extra far flung Mount Omine.

Koyasan (Mount Koya)

Sainan-in Temple, Koyasan
Sainan-in Temple, Koyasan

Mountain-top Koyasan is a village of temples and a paradise for photographers. There are many strolling trails round the village, and staying in one in all Koyasan’s 50+ shukubo (temple lodging) is a big spotlight.

Staying in a temple comprises dinner and breakfast shojin ryori, or vegan Buddhist foods, which can be frequently served to visitors in their rooms, and I used to be shocked to seek out that I may just even order beer or sake with my temple meal.

Koyasan is moderately small, so it’s simple to discover on foot.

Okunoin Cemetery

The Okunoin Cemetery
The Okunoin Cemetery

The major enchantment at Koyasan is Okunoin Cemetery. The cemetery is visually shocking, with 200,000+ gravestones and statues. The path thru the cemetery ends up in Torodo Hall, one in all the maximum sacred puts in all of Japan.

At the again of Tarodo Hall is the serene tomb of Kobo Daishi, the place locals come to hope and meditate. The corridor itself comprises some 10,000 lanterns, which have been donated through worshippers.  

One attention-grabbing method to consult with the cemetery is to take a strolling excursion at night time, introduced through the native temples. The cemetery is especially atmospheric in the darkish, with stone lamps to mild the means.

Kongobuji and Garan

Also in Koyasan, Kongobuji is the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. The monastery museum showcases stunning fisuma (Japanese sliding doorways) and boasts the greatest rock lawn in Japan.

Near Kongubuji, Garan is a big complicated of temples in the middle of Koyasan village. There are a minimum of a dozen stunning temples and shrines in the massive pine tree-filled park, together with 45-meter shiny orange Konpon Daito Pagoda.

The Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage

There are 3 major routes of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage. The most well liked one, the Nakahechi direction, traverses the Kii Peninsula from Hongu on the west facet to the Kumano Sanzan on the east facet. It takes 2-Four days to stroll.

The tougher Kohechi direction connects Koyasan to the Kumano Sanzan, whilst the Ohechi direction runs alongside the coast. A fourth, lesser-known direction connects to Ise Grand Shrine, the maximum vital Shinto shrine in Japan.

Kumano Hongu Taisha

Kumano Hongu Taisha Entrance
Kumano Hongu Taisha Entrance

The maximum vital of the 3 Kumano Sanzan, Kumano Hongu Taisha, is in Hongu, a converging level of a couple of pilgrimage routes. It is a fantastic instance of picket Shinto temple structure. The temple has origins as early as the ninth century, but it surely was once totally relocated from its former riverside location in Hongu after a big flood in 1889.


Japan's Largest Torii Gate at the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center
Japan’s Largest Torii Gate at the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center

Also in Hongu and a brief stroll from Kumano Hongu Taisha, Otorii is Japan’s greatest torii gate, weighing 172 heaps and 33.nine meters tall. The monumental black gate dominates the geographical region and you’ll be able to stroll proper underneath it.

Tsuboyu Onsen

Tsuboyu onsen (hot spring), Yunomine, Japan
Tsuboyu onsen (scorching spring), Yunomine, Japan

Yunomine, a tiny scorching spring village close to Hongu, is legendary for Tsuboyu Onsen. A small picket shack constructed on the riverbed properties a scorching spring pool simply slightly sufficiently big for one to 2 other people.

Visitors can hire the facility for 30-minute time slots. That approach you get the complete spring to your self, the place you’ll be able to shower in the similar spot that emperors as soon as did!

Kumano Hayatama Taisha

Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Shingu, Japan
Kumano Hayatama Taisha, Shingu, Japan

The 2nd, and possibly least visited of the 3 Kumano Sanzan is Kumano Hayatama Taisha, situated in Shingu, close to the east coast of the Kii Peninsula. The shrine’s shiny orange constructions distinction fantastically with the verdant background, and the monumental shimenawa (sacred ropes) are in reality spectacular.

Kumano Nachi Taisha

Nachi-no-taki (Nachi Waterfall), Wakayama, Japan
Nachi-no-taki (Nachi Waterfall), Wakayama, Japan

The ultimate shrine of the 3 Kumano Sanzan is Kumano Nachi Taisha. Traditionally, Kumano Nachi Taisha is the endpoint of the major direction of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, and a in reality amusing method to arrive is to get off the bus a couple of stops previous and stroll up Daimonzaka path.

One Buddhist development at the shrine, Seiganto-ji Pagoda, can famously be photographed with Nachi-no-Taki (Nachi Waterfall), the tallest waterfall in Japan at 436 ft (133 meters), in the background.

After exploring the temple, you’ll be able to hike right down to a shrine at the base of the waterfall.

Kumano Hongu Taisha
Kumano Hongu Taisha

Photography Tips

It will have to be famous that images is allowed in maximum, however no longer all of the sacred websites in the Kii Peninsula. Two notable spots the place footage don’t seem to be allowed are at Torodo Hall in Okunoin Cemetery and within Kongobuji’s museum, each in Koyasan.

Another factor to believe is that whilst images in maximum of the sacred websites is allowed, it will have to be completed discreetly, as those are lively puts of worship.

Cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons are understandably the most well liked for images, but in addition the maximum crowded.

To take footage in the low temperatures after I visited the area in iciness, I wore fingerless gloves and needed to take common breaks to heat up, however I used to be all the time rewarded with shocking photographs of Koyasan’s temples and Okunoin Cemetery coated in snow.

Where to Stay

  • Research right here for the easiest resorts in Yoshino— Ryokan Kato is a effectively rated mid-range choice.
  • For snoozing in Koyasan, staying in a shukubo (temple lodging) is a will have to. I had a really perfect revel in staying at Eko-In, one in all the most well liked and lovely ones, situated close to the front to Okunoin Cemetery.
  • If you stroll the Kumano Kodo or consult with the Kumano Sanzan, staying native ryokans (conventional motels) or minshuku (guesthouses) is easiest.
Konpon Daito, Garan, Koyasan in Winter
Konpon Daito, Garan, Koyasan in Winter

How to Get There

Mount Yoshino can simply be visited as an afternoon travel through educate from Osaka (75-90 mins). Getting to Koyasan takes about 2.five hours, involving a educate to Gokurakubashi, then a cable automobile, which is integrated in the educate price ticket worth, and in the end a brief bus journey into the town.

The easiest method to get entry to the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is through bus from Tanabe on the west coast of the peninsula, whilst the Kumano Sanzan is easiest reached through educate from Osaka or Nagoya, adopted through native buses.


You can be expecting to pay round 10,000 yen (90 USD) for many temple lodging in Koyasan and easy guesthouses or ryokan in Yoshino or the Kumano Kodo/Kumano Sanzan space. It’s conceivable to seek out inexpensive hostels, and in addition conceivable to spend so much extra.

Weather & When to Visit

Spring and autumn are perfect for visiting the area, whilst summer season can also be uncomfortably scorching and humid.

I had an attractive revel in visiting the area in iciness, with deep snow on the floor in Koyasan. The climate would exchange strangely briefly from storm from snow stipulations to amazingly transparent blue skies. On the Kumano Kodo, the climate was once cool and highest for climbing, with only a few other people on the trails.

Nick Kembel is the writer of Spiritual Travels, a web site devoted to conscious trip and locations in East Asia. He lives in Taiwan along with his spouse and two children and you’ll be able to to find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Source hyperlink Everything Everywhere

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